Clive Palmer coal mine poses ‘significant risks’ to Great Barrier Reef, scientists say – ABC News #Ecocide a crime against humanity #ClimateCrisis #auspol #qldpol Stop stealing our children’s future! #TellTheTruth

A committee of Commonwealth-appointed scientific experts has expressed “extreme concern” about businessman Clive Palmer’s proposed central Queensland coal mine, saying the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area just 10 kilometres away could not be safeguarded.

Businessman Clive Palmer’s plan to mine coal near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has been condemned by Commonwealth-appointed experts who say they see no way to remove the proposal’s threat to the reef.

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) has expressed “extreme concern” about the proposed Central Queensland Coal (CQC) project, which it said posed “very significant risks” to reef waters and other “internationally recognised assets”.

CQC wants to build a mine of up to 10 million tonnes of coal a year — as big as Adani’s Carmichael project — 10 kilometres from the World Heritage Area.

But former IESC member Jim McDonald said the expert panel’s advice to Queensland and federal environmental officials last month was one of its most damning assessments yet.

“They’re quite blunt about the loss of environmental asset,” Mr McDonald told the ABC.

“Essentially, they’re saying if you go ahead with the mine as proposed, you will lose [some] environmental assets, because there’s no way you can offset it.”

Mr Palmer is the sole owner of CQC through companies including Fairway Coal and Mineralogy.

CQC has hit back at the IESC, arguing its own draft environmental impact statement “specifically states that there will be no significant impact to any values in these areas”, including the World Heritage Area.

Clive Palmer’s proposed coal mine site near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.(ABC News)

“Given the findings of no significant impact to these areas, the IESC should state what their ‘major concerns’ and the ‘very significant risks’ are,” Central Queensland Coal said in a formal reply on Christmas Eve.

But in its third evaluation of the mine proposal since 2017, the IESC said it had previously raised those concerns.

It said it was especially concerned about the “discharge of mine-affected water” into the World Heritage Area and Queensland’s largest fish habitat at Broad Sound, north of Rockhampton.

It said the miner’s plans to minimise environmental impacts were “likely to be completely inadequate for this region because of its relatively undisturbed setting”.

In 2017, the heat waves, extreme wild fires, and flooding around the world confirmed beyond doubt that climate disruption is now a full-blown emergency.

We have entered Churchill’s “period of consequences”, yet governments have simply watched the disasters magnify, while rushing ahead with new pipelines and annual trillions in fossil fuel subsidies.

Governments simply cannot say they did not know.

The events we are seeing today have been consistently forecast ever since the First Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was signed by all governments back in 1990, and which has been described as the best evaluation project ever designed.

Unprecedented Crime first lays out the culpability of corporations, governmental, political and religious bodies, and especially the media through their failure to report or act on the climate emergency.

No emergency response has even been contemplated by wealthy high-emitting national governments.

Extreme weather reporting never even hints at the need to address climate change — even though it is producing wars and migrations among the world’s poorest, those who have contributed the least to global warming.

Yet, independently of governments, scores of proven zero-carbon game changers have been coming online all over the world.

These exciting technologies, described in the book, are now able to power both household electricity and energy-dense heavy industry.

We already have the technical solutions to the CO2 problem.

With these solutions we can act in time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to near-zero within 20 years.

These willful crimes against life itself by negligent governments, the oblivious media and an insouciant civil society are crimes that everyday citizens can readily grasp — and then take to the streets and to the courts to protest on behalf of their children and grand-children.

This thoroughly researched and highly-documented book will show them how. Co-author Dr. Peter Carter is an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

Unprecedented Crime

The IESC acknowledged Mr Palmer’s companies had done “substantial further investigation and analyses” in response to the panel’s previous concerns.

But it said nothing would “alter the material risks associated with this project, in particular the potentially severe consequences for local and downstream water-related assets”.

The IESC said the mine risked “significant and irreversible damage to internationally valued estuarine and near-shore ecosystems subjected to mine-affected water”.

There was also a potential “legacy water quality issue” from contaminated surface waterways, the “direct loss of 8.35 kilometres of waterways that provide fish passage”, and a drop in groundwater of up to 60 metres along an 11.8km stretch of land.

Big miners exiting coal

Mining giants such as BHP and Rio Tinto have been divesting from coal assetsfor several years and telling investors this was due to concerns about climate change.

CQC is hoping to mine both energy coal and steel-making coal for 18 years.

Rio Tinto sold its stake in the Kestrel coal mine in Queensland in 2018.(Supplied: Rio Tinto.)

Cattle farmer Jacqueline McCamley said prime grazing land, including her property near the proposed mine site, should not be sacrificed “for the sake of a temporary coal mine”.

“Tooloombah would be unable to produce organic beef with coal mine dust polluting grazing pastures and our water,” she said.

While the IESC advice is not binding, Mr McDonald said it could have a decisive influence on government decisions.

“It’s a panel of wide-ranging experts [who] carry a lot of weight in their own different fields,” he said.

CQC wants its proposed mine to operate for 18 years.(AAP)

Mr McDonald said until now the panel had been “very helpful” in directing Mr Palmer’s venture towards “what the IESC needs to properly assess the project and to properly show impacts and how you might mitigate those impacts”.

“In the third one, they essentially said, ‘You still haven’t convinced us’ … and the proponent’s quite open about the impacts that they propose will happen — the IESC’s essentially said, ‘Well, there’s just no way you can mitigate those impacts’,” Mr McDonald said.

‘It’s clearly unacceptable’

Ellie Smith from Queensland anti-mining group Lock the Gate said the IESC report “really stands out in terms of its criticism of a coal project”.

“The unprecedented severity of the IESC’s criticism of the Central Queensland Coal project clearly demonstrates how destructive this project would be,” she said.

“We hope that the Government rejects this project. It’s clearly unacceptable.”

A 2017 map showing Australia’s coal reserves.(Supplied: Geoscience Australia)

Ms Smith said Mr Palmer “seems to have a knack of picking projects that are destructive”.

“First, he proposed a mine on top of a nature refuge … and now, he’s proposing this mine here in the catchment of the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

“We have to take him seriously because obviously he has billions of dollars to fund these projects himself, if he wants to.

“But we do think that he should stick with his other projects, other interests, and stay away from coal mining in Queensland.”

In 2017, Mr Palmer threatened to take the Queensland Government to court if it tried to stop the CQC mining venture.

Mr Palmer did not answer calls from the ABC in relation to the CQC proposal.

Nui Harris, a co-director of Mr Palmer’s venture company Fairway Coal, could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science said it was due to decide by the end of next month whether the miner could move on the next stage of its application.

“DES will be considering the advice received from IESC in its decision,” he said.

A spokesman for the federal department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said state officials were taking the lead in assessing the mine plan.

“The proponent has engaged closely with DES and the department in relation to the issues raised in the IESC advice,” he said.

— Read on

Heatwaves may mean Sydney is too hot for people to live in ‘within decades’ – ABC News #ClimateCrisis Demand #ClimateAction #TellTheTruth #auspol #qldpol #Ecocide a crime against humanity! #COP26

With Australia’s largest city facing 50-degree-plus summers, experts say its suburbs must be radically redesigned and rebuilt in order to remain liveable.

Parts of Victoria and NSW are sweating through an extreme heatwave that started sweeping across Australia’s southeast yesterday.

This may seem like just a good excuse to go to the beach, but as the planet warms and summers become longer and less bearable, heatwaves are coming to represent an existential threat to Australian suburbs.

Already, heat kills more people in Australia than any other natural disaster, including floods, cyclones and bushfires.

Now, faced with the prospect of 50-degree-plus summers, experts say highly urbanised parts of Australia may become unliveable within decades.

The race is on to re-imagine, redesign and rebuild the Australian suburb.

Car parks may be ripped up and planted with trees and greenery, houses retro-fitted with insulation, roads painted to reflect rather than absorb heat, and supermarkets and even whole suburbs built underground to reduce cooling costs.

One centre of these efforts is Western Sydney, home to more than 2.5 million people. 

In this floodplain of closely packed houses, heat pools on islands of black bitumen and collects on sun-baked concrete.

The mercury gets close to 50 degrees Celsius here in summer — and that’s just the ambient air temperature. The radiant heat from bitumen carparks can push 80C. The surface temperature of playground equipment has been measured at 100C.

In 2017, the heat waves, extreme wild fires, and flooding around the world confirmed beyond doubt that climate disruption is now a full-blown emergency.

We have entered Churchill’s “period of consequences”, yet governments have simply watched the disasters magnify, while rushing ahead with new pipelines and annual trillions in fossil fuel subsidies.

Governments simply cannot say they did not know.

The events we are seeing today have been consistently forecast ever since the First Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was signed by all governments back in 1990, and which has been described as the best evaluation project ever designed.

Unprecedented Crime first lays out the culpability of corporations, governmental, political and religious bodies, and especially the media through their failure to report or act on the climate emergency.

No emergency response has even been contemplated by wealthy high-emitting national governments.

Extreme weather reporting never even hints at the need to address climate change — even though it is producing wars and migrations among the world’s poorest, those who have contributed the least to global warming.

Yet, independently of governments, scores of proven zero-carbon game changers have been coming online all over the world.

These exciting technologies, described in the book, are now able to power both household electricity and energy-dense heavy industry.

We already have the technical solutions to the CO2 problem.

With these solutions we can act in time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to near-zero within 20 years.

These willful crimes against life itself by negligent governments, the oblivious media and an insouciant civil society are crimes that everyday citizens can readily grasp — and then take to the streets and to the courts to protest on behalf of their children and grand-children.

This thoroughly researched and highly-documented book will show them how. Co-author Dr. Peter Carter is an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Unprecedented Crime

Since 2019, all 33 Sydney councils have been funding a climate adaptation program that has identified heat as the number-one climate threat to Sydneysiders.

“We are not yet building a city that’s really equipping our people to survive and adapt extreme heat,” says Beck Dawson, who heads the Resilience Sydney program.

“If the community doesn’t have access to things to make themselves cool we effectively have a very large oven occurring across the Western Sydney plains.

“The scale of the emerging threat is different to anything we’ve faced before.”

When Penrith hit 48.9C

A taste of that future came on January 4, 2020, when Sydney — surrounded by bushfires — was struck by a heatwave that broke temperature records.

In the suburb of Penrith at the foot of the Blue Mountains, the mercury hit 48.9C, making it one of the hottest places in the world on that day.

At her nearby practice in Blacktown, GP Kim Loo prepared for the worst.

“It’s a sense of dread,” Dr Loo says about the days of forecast high temperatures.

“I have isolated patients who are near poverty or the working poor who are frightened about power prices.”

In Sydney, the most expensive suburbs are also the coolest — the harbour and coastal areas are often 10C cooler than inland.

The highest temperatures are usually recorded in low socio-economic areas with a high proportion of people who are vulnerable to heat, including the elderly, those who are socially isolated, and those on pensions who cannot afford to run the A/C.

“Air con is so important because [when temperatures rise] over 35C fans just don’t cut it, but running the air con is so expensive,” Dr Loo says.

“Many of my patients cannot afford it. I advise them to go to shopping centres.”

Parts of Western Sydney may be ‘abandoned’

On a hot night in Blacktown, the 24-hour Kmart is a hub of social activity: people linger until it’s cool enough outside to go home to sleep.

The ad hoc reliance on shopping centres to keep cool illustrates the scale of Western Sydney’s emerging heat problem, says Ms Dawson.

“We’re putting one million more people into Western Sydney and they’re not all going to fit into Kmart on the fourth day of a heatwave,” she says.

But most of the really vulnerable people, she says, suffer through the really hot days in silence — they stay inside and keep the curtains drawn.

A project called Sweltering Cities is surveying residents to hear what it’s like to live, work and travel around Western Sydney on days of extreme heat.

The responses so far paint a scary picture, says Emma Bacon, who’s running the survey.

“Overwhelmingly, they’re saying political parties should have policies to address the heat in the city.”

The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology estimate the average number of days over 35C in Western Sydney could increase by up to five times by 2090.

Put another way, Western Sydney will have an extra month of days over 35C by 2090.

Mattheos Santamouris, a professor at UNSW and a globally recognised expert on building cooler cities, believes that without action to help residents adapt to hotter summers, “many places” in Western Sydney will be abandoned over the next 20 to 30 years.

To understand why this may be the case, Professor Santamouris says it is first necessary to consider Western Sydney’s geography.

The desert to the east acts like an open oven door, blasting hot air at the suburban sprawl.

An urgent and essential call to arms from one of Australia’s most respected climate scientists, Tim Flannery. A compelling and solution-focused declaration of the action required to win the climate battle, and how change must start in our board rooms and parliaments.

Australians are witnessing an unprecedented government response to crisis-swift decisive action to avert catastrophe. And the advice of scientists has informed every step of the way.

But for decades the advice of scientists on the impending catastrophe that climate change will bring has been ignored, dismissed and even ridiculed.

Renowned climate scientist Tim Flannery takes aim at those in government and in the fossil fuel industries for their inaction and lies in response to calls to address the very real and immediate threats posed by climate change. Threats that are now upon us, as the 2019/20 Australian bushfires and floods have shown.

Flannery sees 2020 as a turning point. He explores the measures at our disposal to reduce CO2 emissions. He looks at the ways carbon can be drawn out of the atmosphere and safely stored to stabilise atmospheric carbon levels. And he demands a new approach that puts tackling climate change in the hands of the scientists who can lead the way.

The Climate Cure is an action plan for survival, a call for government policies that, like its COVID-19 response, rise to the very real climate challenges we face. There is reason for optimism-if we act now.

The Climate Cure

Sea breezes help cool the city, but only reach as far as the edge of Parramatta.

Combined with climate change, high-density development and clearing of the tree canopy, the westernmost suburbs are getting alarmingly hot.

“If we don’t apply a very radical agenda for the next years, most people will move towards the coast where the sea breeze may help a lot,” Professor Santamouris says.

Public life, he predicts, will shift to air-conditioned malls. He’s noticed this happening already in Darwin “where the main commercial street is not visited at all.”

Resilience Sydney’s Beck Dawson believes Western Sydney will remain habitable, but people will have to live there in very different ways to what they do now.

She suggests daily heat-risk rating system, similar to the one used for bushfires, could be introduced.

Dr Loo is less confident. From her medical practice at the frontline of climate change effects, she foresees a future of rapidly escalating health costs due to summer heat. 

“With the number of hot days we have within Western Sydney — if we don’t have adequate adaptation — Western Sydney is not going to be liveable,” she says.

Taking action on heat

Action on heat takes two forms: mitigation and adaptation.

Mitigation is reducing the ambient air temperature itself (through planting trees or using heat-reflective materials), while adaptation aims to soften the impact of high temperatures (such as building houses with insulated roofs and double-glazed windows).

So far, NSW Government efforts to mitigate the extreme heat of future summers has focused on increasing the tree canopy across Greater Sydney by planting one million trees by 2022.

But though these programs are worthwhile, they are not enough on their own to counter the rising heat, says Professor Santamouris.

He’s calculated that planting five million trees would only decrease the maximum temperature in Western Sydney by 1 to 1.2 degrees.

In some scenarios, he said, trees can even make the city hotter.

Once trees get too dry, they draw water from their leaves into their trunks, so that they no longer have a cooling effect on air temperature. This can be countered with irrigation, but millions of trees would require a lot of water. 

“Just planting a number of trees will not solve the problem,” Professor Santamouris says.

“We need to have much more radical solutions.” 

Radiating heat into outer space

One simple solution is to use more light-coloured building materials that reflect rather than absorb heat.

Trials have shown that painting road surfaces with heat-reflective paint can keep them at least 10C cooler than untreated sections.

Widespread use of these cool materials could reduce the ambient air temperature in Western Sydney by 1.5C, Professor Santamouris calculates.

Next-generation “super-cool” materials could double that figure.

These materials, called photonics, radiate heat at a frequency of infrared that, rather than being absorbed by the atmosphere and bouncing back, sends the heat into space. They can be applied as paint or a spray-film for plastics and even wood to stay up to 10C cooler than the ambient temperature.

“We expect them to be ready in the next few years,” Professor Santamouris says.

But even these high-tech materials are no match for the impact of climate change, he says.

The reduction in temperature through mitigation will be mostly cancelled out by the projected increase in ambient temperature.

“Given that, mitigation is not enough,” Professor Santamouris says.

A city of parks and underground bunkers

That leaves adaptation: reducing the impact of the heat.

Sebastian Pfautsch, an urban heat expert at Western Sydney University, proposes replacing the model of runaway suburban sprawl with one that prioritises green space.

He’s calculated that in some Western Sydney’s suburbs, 80 per cent of the surface area is sealed with roads, pavements, car parks buildings and other kinds of construction that trap heat.

That figure, he says, needs to get down to 25 per cent.

“If you don’t want to have urban development where you increase the temperature then you can only achieve that where you’re the covering area with two portions open space and one portion of closed space,” he says.

To do this, he says, houses and shops need to be built largely underground, which has the added advantage of making them easier to cool.

Another option is to house people in high apartment blocks surrounded by vast areas of parkland.

“We need to build up or build down,” he says.

“This may sound utopian but it is a necessary type of progressive thinking in hot areas.

“A large shopping centre built underground can bring its cooling cost down by 95 per cent.”

Other ideas include retro-fitting homes with insulation and air-conditioners as well as providing cheap renewable energy. 

Renters or people without access to suitable roof space could purchase or lease solar panels in a centralised array, with the electricity generated credited to the customer’s electricity bill. 

Such “solar gardens” are already operating in regional NSW, with customers in Western Sydney.

Then there are plans to better forecast and track heat. 

Several Western Sydney councils have commissioned Dr Pfautsch to install thousands of temperature readers to map the eddies and flows of heat in their area.

The Bureau of Meteorology has introduced a national three-day heatwave forecast and is also working on a “heatwave predictability map” that it hopes will better inform Australians about the severity and duration of each heatwave as it rolls in.

A separate project led by Emergency Management Australia aims to draw on survey data to identify the locations of people who are most vulnerable to heatwaves.

These national initiatives and high-tech solutions are welcome, Ms Bacon says, but there also many simple things that can be done right away.

“We still have bus stops that are uncovered,” she says.

“Bus stops aren’t an expensive piece of infrastructure.”

Progress is being made, but slowly

Dr Pfautsch points out that poorly insulated houses with heat-absorbing black roofs are still being constructed in great numbers out west. Unsuspecting buyers chasing the Australian Dream are being locked into decades of sweltering heat.

“When it comes to development itself, I cannot say that I see any change,” Dr Pfautsch says.

Progress is being made, but slowly, says Ms Dawson of Resilience Sydney.

She points to the publicly funded Cool Suburbs program to develop a tool to help developers and planners better consider urban heat mitigation measures.

None of these building design programs are mandatory for developers to use.

“As our building communities are getting used to what matters and what the community priorities are — they will respond,” Ms Dawson says.

The solutions to heat require co-operation between many stakeholders, including developers, planners and different levels of government, she says.

“It really reminds of the 1980s, when there was a really big change in the building code for cyclones.”

That change was precipitated by Cyclone Tracy, which levelled Darwin.

Ms Dawson says Sydney’s heatwave equivalent of this natural disaster will be a string of days of record-breaking heat combined with high levels of humidity.

“When we have one of those events, it’ll be a very dangerous disaster across the city,” she says.

“I really hope we don’t have to wait for that event to galvanise the scale of action that we need.”

— Read on

Boeing says it will make planes able to fly on 100% biofuel by 2030 | The Guardian #auspol #qldpol Demand #ClimateAction #StopEcocide a crime against humanity. #TellTheTruth #ClimateCrisis #Ecocide

Aviation giant already staged the world’s first commercial flight using 100% biofuel in 2018.

Boeing says it will begin delivering commercial airplanes capable of flying on 100% biofuel by the end of the decade, calling reducing environmental damage from fossil fuels the “challenge of our lifetime.”

Boeing’s goal – which requires advances to jet systems, raising fuel-blending requirements, and safety certification by global regulators – is central to a broader industry target of slashing carbon emissions in half by 2050, the US planemaker said.

“It’s a tremendous challenge, it’s the challenge of our lifetime,” Boeing’s director of sustainability strategy, Sean Newsum, told Reuters. “Aviation is committed to doing its part to reduce its carbon footprint.”

Commercial flying currently accounts for about 2% of global carbon emissions and about 12% of transport emissions, according to data cited by the Air Transport Action Group.

Boeing essentially has just a decade to reach its target because jetliners that enter service in 2030 will typically stay in service through 2050.

The world’s largest aerospace company must also confront the task hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic and the 20-month grounding of its bestselling jetliner after fatal crashes, which has strained its finances and engineering resources.

Boeing isn’t starting from scratch. In 2018, it staged the world’s first commercial flight using 100% biofuel on a FedEx Corp 777 freighter.

Boeing and European rival Airbus SE also work on reducing carbon emissions through weight and drag reduction on new aircraft.

As it is now, biofuels are mixed directly with conventional jet fuel up to a 50/50 blend, which is the maximum allowed under current fuel specifications, Boeingsaid.

Boeing first must determine what changes to make to enable safe flight on alternative fuels derived from used vegetable oil, animal fats, sugar cane, waste and other sources.

Boeing needs to work with groups that set fuel specifications such ASTM International to raise the blending limit to allow expanded use, and then convince aviation regulators globally to certify the planes as safe, Boeing said.

— Read on

Brian Schmidt tells global Climate Adaptation Summit Australia cannot shirk obligation to tackle climate change #auspol #qldpol #Ecocide a crime against humanity! #StopAdani #FundOurFutureNotCoal

Australia has an “urgent moral obligation” to help lead international efforts on climate action, Australian Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt has told an international summit.

Brian Schmidt

Australian Nobel laureate scientist Brian Schmidt has told a summit of global leaders that Australia is duty bound to take a lead on climate action and called for an international effort to combat an anti-science agenda and climate change denial.

“For Australia, which is such a large per capita contributor to global emissions and which has such abundance of natural renewable resources, the answer lies in scaling up clean energy generation ASAP,” Professor Schmidt, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, said in a speech on Friday night.

“This is an urgent moral obligation which Australia must not shirk.”

Professor Schmidt, who won the Nobel prize for physics in 2011, made his comments to the Climate Adaptation Summit, hosted by the Netherlands but being conducted online.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley is representing Australia at the summit, which is also being attended by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Professor Schmidt said the coronavirus pandemic had reinforced the importance of science in policy making, and he was hopeful this trend would help drive greater efforts to curb climate change.

“The purveyors of doubt have tried to devalue these powerful weapons in the fight against climate change. We can’t let them succeed,” he said. “Things, though, are starting to swing back. Medical science has brilliantly come to the rescue in the gravest crisis the people of the world have faced for generations.”

Australia trails China, Japan, Britain, South Korea and now the US, which have net zero emissions targets for 2050 or 2060.

The Climate Adaptation Summit is an international collaboration to build momentum ahead of the UN’s major climate summit in November. It aims to form an international agenda for adaptation and resilience in tackling the effects of climate change, such as increasing extreme weather.

Last December Mr Johnson convened another summit as a prelude to November’s major event. Australia was not invited to speak after a diplomatic push among attending countries resolved to reserve places for countries making “ambitious” new commitments including pledges from developed countries to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Morrison planned to use his speech to announce Australia had abandoned its internationally controversial plan to use credits earned under the Kyoto treaty to achieve its emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.

The Morrison government has said it can meet its Paris commitment by reaching net zero emissions some time in the second half of this century, but it has not set a more ambitious deadline.

— Read on

Joe Biden inauguration: Trumpist fantasy still captivates the odd Australian politician #auspol #qldpol #ClimateCrisis #TellTheTruth Demand #ClimateAction #Democracy at risk.

Donald Trump’s “alternative facts” worked.

A third of American adults still believe he won the election and he remains a threat to US stability, but Australia needs to embrace a new era anchored in reality.

By Peter Hartcher

In the face of a sceptical reporter, a senior Republican White House operative dismissed his views.

Guys like you were “in what we call the reality-based community”, he sneered. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.”

That comment could very well have come from the Donald Trump White House.

It did not.

It was delivered by a senior aide to the previous Republican president, George W. Bush, more than a decade before Trump declared his candidacy.

But it was Trump who brought it closest to fulfilment. By creating an alternative reality so powerful that many tens of millions of Americans believe that fiction is fact.

By creating a mass delusion so persuasive that he tried to establish himself as America’s first dictator on the strength of it.

Even now, even after the mob invasion of the US Capitol and Trump’s fall in disgrace, even after the unanimity of the courts’ rulings, a third of American adults believe Trump actually won the election, according to the scrupulously non-partisan Pew Research group.

In a country with 250 million adults, that suggests more than 80 million still buy the lie. Among Republican voters, nearly two-thirds – 64 per cent – believe so. Six per cent of Democrats believe it too.

Many political operatives and politicians around the world will see this not as a terrible aberration but as an exciting test run. That includes some elected members of Parliament in Australia who continue to broadcast the Trump alternative reality, the fiction that threw US democracy into acute crisis and remains a danger even after Trump’s departure.

The unnamed Bush staffer explained the concept to the reporter Ron Susskind, who published it in The New York Times Magazine in 2004. The reality-based community comprised people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Susskind’s report of these remarks has since been described as an “intellectual scoop”. And the Bush operative’s words apply today – the reality-based community is left stunned, agape, to study the extraordinary power of Trump’s alternative reality. Or what the Chinese Communist Party would call his “discourse control”.

The concept worked temporarily for Bush, long enough to get him re-elected. In that case, the alternative reality was that the US-led invasion of Iraq was justified, necessary and successful. All false, and ultimately all seen to be false. But at the time Bush and his vice-president, Dick Cheney, were strikingly successful in misleading their nation.

And they managed to do it without the help of so-called social media, truly an Orwellian misnomenclature for one of the most socially divisive forces in contemporary civilisation. Bush had already been re-elected by the time Facebook and Twitter launched operations.

Yet Bush had a much easier sell. He had to persuade an America unsettled by the 9/11 attacks that it was cool to invade a faraway Arab country that most Americans already considered a hostile state. He merely had to conflate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and muddy the waters a bit to win public support for his big lie. Mission accomplished.

Trump had the advantage of fully fledged anti-social media to work with. Critically, he also had the advantage of another decade of American failure on his side – shocking inequalities of wealth and opportunity, failing wars fought with the lives and limbs of the American underclass, a paralysing opioid plague, ever-deepening cultural divides and racial resentments.

The conditions for the rise of an authoritarian were ripe. A couple of centuries of American democracy are feeble defence against these historical forces for human discontent. Indeed, the American historians Will and Ariel Durant predicted as much more than half a century ago. They distilled the threefold warning that emerged from their 11-volume survey, The Story of Civilisation. Even though they were writing in 1968, at a time when democracy was “sounder than ever before”, as they describe it in their overview essay titled The Lessons of History.

One: “If race or class war divides us into hostile camps, changing political arguments into blind hate, one side or the other may overturn the hustings with the rule of the sword.”

Two: “If our economy of freedom fails to distribute wealth as ably as it has created it, the road to dictatorship will be open to any man who can persuasively promise security to all.”

Three: “If a war continues to absorb and dominate [a democracy], or if the itch to rule the world requires a large military establishment and appropriation, the freedoms of democracy may one by one succumb to the discipline of arms and strife.”

The Durants didn’t posit that you needed all three – or even two – of these conditions to overturn a democracy. Any one might suffice. And in America, the first two preconditions were present for Trump to exploit. And arguably some elements of the third as well.

Trump exploited these crises by decrying them as “American carnage” and promising populist solutions. Populism has many definitions; the one I prefer is a political style offering unworkably simplistic solutions to complex problems.

One. Fix the race problem by shutting out Muslims and Mexicans and encouraging white supremacists. This only inflamed the hate, which Trump then sought to own and direct.

Two. Fix the economy by blaming China and others for problems, putting tariffs on imports and handing out tax cuts. This only aggravated inequality and stoked the national debt, while Trump & Family profited personally.

Three. Fix the “forever wars” by dismissing America’s commitments to US allies and “bringing all the troops home”. This did offer the prospect of relief to overworked troops, but weakened the Western alliance and encouraged Vladimir Putin in the process.

And when circumstance delivered a pandemic, he produced a populist response to that, too. Blame China for inflicting it, and the Democrats and media for perpetuating it.

The power of Trump’s achievement in overcoming reality was a marvel of manipulation. He knew exactly what he was doing. From the first. Remember his easy dismissal of inconvenient information as “fake news”. And, challenged by reporters in the act of making things up, he gave a pathbreaking attribution to authoritative sourcing: “All I know is what’s on the internet.” Which, of course, is everything and nothing.

When he was inaugurated, his spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s exaggerated claims of the number of adoring fans who’d supposedly turned out in support. The administration had simply presented “alternative facts”, she said. This caused a stir at the time, yet now looks innocent compared with the monstrosity of Trump’s perversions of pandemic reality – that it would just “go away” like “a miracle” while 400,000 Americans died in the meantime.

And to the last. In his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election win, Trump was fully conscious of reality but orchestrated the alternative reality he wanted America to swallow. Some of his cynical manipulations were recorded by the former Sydney Morning Herald reporter Jonathan Swan this week for Axios.

“President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. ‘Ugh, Sidney,’ he told the staff in the room before he picked up. ‘She’s getting a little crazy, isn’t she? She’s really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It’s just too much.’

He put the call on speakerphone for the benefit of his audience. Powell was raving about a national security crisis involving the Iranians flipping votes in battleground states. Trump pressed mute and laughed mockingly.”

Powell, a former government attorney, filed four law suits in efforts to overturn the election result. It was clear that Trump recognised how unhinged his outside legal advisers were, wrote Swan: “But Trump promoted Powell as part of his team. ‘Sometimes you need a little crazy,’ Trump told one official.”

At the outset of his prime ministership Scott Morrison flirted with Trumpist populism. Remember his proposal to mimic Trump by moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? His whack at “negative globalism”? His sharing the stage with Trump at a political event in Ohio?

Gratefully, Morrison abandoned this dangerous flirtation. And, after his searing damnation for failing to respond to Australia’s season of fire, he reformed. When the pandemic struck, Morrison responded as a full member of the “reality-based community”.

Not everyone in his coalition got the message. The Liberals’ Craig Kelly and Nationals’ George Christensen thought it clever politics to ape Trump rhetoric on a number of subjects. Even the Nationals’ leader, Michael McCormack, continues to think he’s on a winner in persisting with some Trump talking points. Even as acting prime minister of Australia he failed in his responsibility to understand that he should serve Australian reality rather than Trumpist fantasy. These characters embarrass themselves and demean Australia’s government.

Morrison’s next turn to reality is to better align Australian climate and energy policy with the political reality of a Biden administration and the planetary and economic realities of accelerating climate change.

It might be too late for US politics to return to the reality-based community in any lasting way. Biden will try his best. But the stunning inequality and deep divisions in America have not left with Trump but remain as inflammatory preconditions for cynical exploitation. That’s just the reality.

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Net zero offers affordable path to climate stability | #ClimateCrisis #TellTheTruth Demand #ClimateAction #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #FundOurFutureNotGas #COP26 #StopEcocide

Net zero offers affordable path to climate stability |

By David Suzuki

Another year, another record. Even with a global seven per cent drop in fossil fuel burning during the pandemic, 2020 tied 2016 for the hottest year recorded, making the past decade the warmest.

The previous record in 2016 was set during an El Niño event, which contributed somewhat to rising temperatures, meaning last year was likely the hottest in terms of global heating. Average global surface temperature was 1.25 C higher than the pre-industrial average, nearing the 1.5 C aspirational target the world’s nations set under the Paris Agreement five years ago. In the Arctic and northern regions, average temperature was 3 to 6 C higher.

As the world heats up, we’re experiencing ever-increasing impacts, from deadly heat waves to more frequent and intense extreme weather events. Last year, the Western U.S., Siberia, Australia and parts of South America were hit with some of the biggest, most expensive wildfires on record, and studies showed climate disruption played a major role. These fires release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroy important carbon sinks, driving warming even faster. Smoke and particulates also cause health problems and death.

Last year also set records for Atlantic hurricanes and tied 2018 for the most tropical cyclones.

It’s dire, but there’s still time to avoid the worst consequences — if we act quickly and decisively.

New research shows global average temperatures could stabilize within a couple of decades if we quickly reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero. Reducing emissions to “net zero” means not releasing any more than are being removed from the atmosphere. Although dramatically bringing emissions down is the critical factor, methods to remove CO2 and other greenhouse gases — such as forest and wetland protection and restoration, and carbon capture and sequestration — can balance out some released emissions.

As the UN points out, affordable methods to get to net zero exist. At the end of 2020, 126 countries representing 51 per cent of emissions had either adopted, announced or were considering net-zero goals, according to the World Economic Forum. The European Union, Japan, South Korea and the U.K. have pledged to do so by 2050, as has the incoming U.S. Biden administration. Canada has introduced legislation but must do even more.

Previous research indicated rapid heating would continue long after we reduce emissions because gases such as CO2 and methane remain in the atmosphere for many years. New findings offer a hint of optimism. This is in part because as we bring emissions under control, natural systems such as oceans, wetlands and forests — and possibly technology — will remove some greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Of course, that means we must also take better care of those natural systems. It’s all interconnected.

Emergencies test governments, organisations and individuals. Although Australia’s prompt, science-led response to COVID-19 has not been perfect, it has saved tens of thousands of lives. But for decades, governments have ignored, ridiculed or understated the advice of scientists on the climate emergency.

Now, in the wake of the megafires of 2020, a time of reckoning has arrived. In The Climate Cure renowned climate scientist Tim Flannery takes aim at those responsible for the campaign of obfuscation and denial that has already cost so many Australian lives and held back action on climate change. 

Flannery demands a new approach, based on the nation’s response to COVID-19, that will lead to effective government policies. The Climate Cure is an action plan for our future. We face a fork in the road, and must decide now between catastrophe and survival.

The Climate Cure

We’re not on track to meet even the aspirational target of 1.5 C warming. We’ve already heated to at least 1.1 C above pre-industrial levels and are heading to 2 C or more. We’re still looking at more heat waves, flooding, wildfires, disease spread, displacement of people and refugee crises, biodiversity loss and water shortages. But to avert even worse catastrophe, we can and must do all we can to bring it under control. We already have affordable methods to achieve net-zero emissions, and it’s likely we’ll continue to develop more and better solutions. Resolving the crisis will lead to a less-polluted, healthier world with greater opportunities for all.

Look at how rapidly the world has been able to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Not that it’s under control, but vaccines have been developed in record time, and countries that have acted decisively to implement safety measures have seen success.

And the powerful computers that most of us now carry in our pockets and purses show how quickly technology can develop.

As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told the Washington Post, “It’s no longer a question of when the impacts of climate change will manifest themselves: They are already here and now. The only question remaining is how much worse it will get. And the answer to that question is up to us.”

We must all get behind rapid and decisive climate action. Taking steps in our own lives is important, but holding governments and industry to account is crucial. There’s no time to waste.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington.           

Ecocide 101

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Biden Cancels Keystone XL Pipeline Permit | HuffPost Australia #ClimateCrisis It’s time to #Divest from fossil fuels. #TellTheTruth #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #FundOurFutureNotGas Demand #ClimateAction

The 1,200-mile oil pipeline is one of several Trump environmental policies that President Joe Biden is expected to reverse.

By Chris D’Angelo

President Joe Biden has revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively killing the controversial project and jump-starting what he’s promised will be a seismic shift in U.S. climate policy after four years of inaction under Donald Trump. 

The executive order on the oil pipeline, which Biden signed just hours after his inauguration, is part of an anticipated blitz of early executive actions to reverse Trump-era policies. Several are expected to target the previous administration’s industry-friendly rollbacks of environmental regulations.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have pledged aggressive government action to combat the global climate crisis, and in recent weeks they’ve assembled what environmentalists have hailed as an “all-star” team to lead that effort. As promised, Biden signed a second executive order Wednesday to rejoin the Paris climate accord.

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said during his inauguration speech. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”

Revoking the permit for Keystone XL is part of a broader day-one executive order “to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice,” according to the administration. Those efforts include potentially strengthening fuel economy and emissions standards; directing the Interior Department “to protect our nation’s treasures” by reviewing and possibly reversing Trump’s rollbacks of protected national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante; and temporarily banning all oil and gas leasing activities in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It comes as a major blow for a fossil fuel infrastructure project that has been plagued by setbacks and litigation over the last decade. 

In 2015, President Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL, saying that U.S. leadership to combat climate change would be undercut if he allowed the pipeline to be built. Trump, in turn, revived both Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipeline, signing a pair of executive orders in his first few days to move the pipelines forward. Legal challenges followed and in November 2018 a federal judge halted construction on Keystone XL and ordered the Trump administration to conduct a thorough environmental review. Trump subsequently sidestepped that court order, issuing a presidential permit in 2019 authorizing energy company TransCanada to again proceed with construction.

If built, the planned 1,179-mile, $8.5 billion Keystone XL pipeline would transport some 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, where it would link up with the existing Keystone pipeline that connects to refineries in Texas.

Pipeline owner TC Energy Corp said in a statement Wednesday that it would suspend construction ahead of Biden’s order, which it called “very disappointing.” 

While the Trump administration, industry groups and other project supporters touted the pipeline’s potential to create thousands of new jobs, environmentalists and Native American groups have long warned about its potential climate and other environmental impacts. The pipeline has already suffered a number of failures, including a nearly 400,000-gallon spill in North Dakota in October 2019.

Canadian officials were among those who expressed concern this week after several media outlets reported on Biden’s looming action. Jason Kenney, the premier of the province of Alberta, said in a statement that repealing the project permit “would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-US relationship, and undermine US national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future.” 

Meanwhile, environmental groups hope the president’s executive order is just the start of aggressive government action to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. 

“These huge first steps show Biden is serious about climate action, but re-entering the Paris Agreement and canceling Keystone must be the start of a furious race to avert catastrophe,” Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Much more is needed, and we’re increasingly hopeful the administration will stop approving new fossil fuel projects and speed the transition to clean, distributed energy that climate science and justice demand.”

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Energy Report — RethinkX Rethinking Energy #ClimateCrisis #Biden #Ecocide #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #FundOurFutureNotGas #RenewableEnergy #COP26 #ZeroEmissions Solar, Wind and Batteries #SWB

We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most profound disruption of the energy sector in over a century.

Like most disruptions, this one is being driven by the convergence of several key technologies whose costs and capabilities have been improving on consistent and predictable trajectories – namely, solar photovoltaic power, wind power, and lithium-ion battery energy storage.

Our analysis shows that 100% clean electricity from the combination of solar, wind, and batteries (SWB) is both physically possible and economically affordable across the entire continental United States as well as the overwhelming majority of other populated regions of the world by 2030.

Adoption of SWB is growing exponentially worldwide and disruption is now inevitable because by 2030 they will offer the cheapest electricity option for most regions.

Coal, gas, and nuclear power assets will become stranded during the 2020s, and no new investment in these technologies is rational from this point forward.

“Just as the Internet disrupted many incumbent industries but facilitated the emergence of many more – and created trillions of dollars of new value – by reducing the marginal cost of information to near zero, the SWB disruption will have a similar impact by reducing the marginal cost of energy to near-zero for a substantial portion of the year.

  • It is both physically possible and economically affordable to meet 100% of electricity demand with the combination of solar, wind, and batteries (SWB) by 2030 across the entire continental United States as well as the overwhelming majority of other populated regions of the world.

  • The Clean Energy U-Curve captures the tradeoff relationship between electricity generation and energy storage, and is a valuable tool for both understanding how 100% SWB is achievable as well as identifying the optimal mix of generation and storage capacity in any given region.

  • Lowest cost 100% SWB systems will typically require just 35-90 average demand hours of battery energy storage, depending on regional climate and geography.

  • 100% SWB will provide the cheapest possible electricity system by 2030 – far less expensive than new conventional power plants, and in many cases less expensive than continuing to operate existing coal, gas, or nuclear power plants.

  • While both solar power and wind power are necessary, these generation technologies are not equal because solar is becoming cheaper more quickly. The lowest cost 100% SWB systems will comprise up to 10x more solar than wind in most locations.

  • SWB will not merely replace conventional power generation technologies as a proportional 1-to-1 substitution, but will instead create a much larger electricity system based on an entirely new architecture that operates according to a different set of rules and metrics.

  • Just as the Internet disrupted many incumbent industries but facilitated the emergence of many more – and created trillions of dollars of new value – by reducing the marginal cost of information to near zero, the SWB disruption will have a similar impact by reducing the marginal cost of energy to near-zero for a substantial portion of the year.

  • 100% SWB systems will produce a very large amount of surplus power output, or Clean Energy Super Power, on most days of the year. In California, for example, super power from the lowest cost SWB system combination of SWB of 309 terawatt-hours is greater than the state’s total existing electricity demand of 285 terawatt-hours.

  • Clean energy superabundance from near-zero marginal cost SWB super power will create a new possibility space for novel business models, products, services, and markets across dozens of industries, with dramatic increases in societal capabilities and economic prosperity for regions that adopt a 100% SWB system.

  • Examples of super power applications include electrification of road transportation and heating, water desalination and treatment, waste processing and recycling, metal smelting and refining, chemical processing and manufacturing, cryptocurrency mining, cloud computing and communications, and carbon removal.

  • At national scale, super power in the United States would create trillions of dollars of economic value and millions of jobs across the wider economy.

  • Super power can help repatriate industries, particularly in heavy industry, that stand to benefit from superabundant near-zero marginal cost clean energy.

  • SWB can be autocatalytic by dedicating a portion of super power to the manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries themselves.

  • The clean energy U-curve shows that incremental investments in additional solar generation capacity beyond the lowest cost combination of SWB capacities will yield disproportionally large increases in super power. For example, a 20% incremental investment in California would increase super power output by over 190% from 309 terawatt-hours to 592 terawatt-hours.

  • The construction of a 100% SWB system in the continental United States would cost less than $2 trillion over the course of the 2020s – just 1% of GDP – and would support millions of new jobs during that time.

  • The amount of super power produced by 100% SWB systems is so large that it could displace up to half of all fossil fuel energy use outside of the existing electric power sector.

  • 100% SWB systems will not only eliminate virtually all greenhouse gas emissions from the existing electric power sector but will also reduce emissions by displacing fossil fuel energy use in other sectors – residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and agriculture – as well.

  • Combined with electric vehicles, a 100% SWB system could eliminate all fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in both the electricity sector and road transportation sector simultaneously, thereby mitigating half of the country’s total carbon footprint.

  • Efficiency in the new system will mean maximizing output and utilization because there is no fuel or waste to minimize.

  • Conservation in the new system will mean maximizing rather than minimizing energy use, because it is not harmful to utilize electricity generated from sunshine and wind but rather it is harmful to let it go to waste.

“The implications of this clean electricity disruption are profound. Not only can it solve some of society’s most critical challenges but it will usher in hundreds of new business models and create industries that collectively transform the global economy. When a system generates hyperabundant electricity at a marginal cost close to zero, the potential for new value creation is limitless.

— Read on

“Ecocide” may soon be punishable under international law – Climate & Capital Media #auspol #qldpol #StopEcocide #StopAdani stop stealing our children’s future! #FundOurFutureNotGas #ZeroEmissions

By Howard Manly

New countries are backing a movement to make environmental damage punishable under the International Criminal Court.

A push to make mass ecological damage an enforceable crime under the International Criminal Court has had support from the small island states Vanuatu and the Maldives, and the effort is now gaining traction in Europe as well.  

According to Stop Ecocide, French president Emmanuel Macron has promised to champion the idea now under active consideration at the ICC, and the Belgian government has also pledged diplomatic action to back it.

Preparatory work is underway on a legal definition of “ecocide,” and an expert panel of international and environmental lawyers plans to deliver a draft in early 2021 that would make ecocide a crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Jojo Mehta, chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, told the Guardian that “it would have to involve mass, systematic, or widespread destruction” of the world’s ecosystems.

“We are probably talking about Amazon deforestation on a huge scale, deep sea bottom trawling, or oil spills,” she said. 

One of the panel members is Pablo Fajardo, the Goldman prize-winning Ecuadorian lawyer who challenged Chevron for polluting the Amazon rainforest. 

As it is now, he explained, a “great legal vacuum exists.” That results in “crimes committed against nature, against life, going unpunished.”

Assembled by the Stop Ecocide Foundation at the request of several Swedish parliamentarians, the drafting panel is co-chaired by Philippe Sands QC, a professor at University College London, and Justice Florence Mumba, a former judge at the ICC.

— Read on